Why we’ve moved our support from Slack to Zendesk

At the start of the year we announced a change to the way we provide support to clients at Ashton McGill.

Since our launch in late August 2017, Slack has been our platform of choice for client engagement. It’s dynamic, fluid, and allows for rapid responses to client queries. In the ‘Open’ Channels, clients will often answer each other’s questions. We love that collaborative, community feel and we don’t want that to change.

However, when we look at the traffic through Slack, 90% of all messages on the platform – a total of 9,553 – have been sent as Direct Messages. That’s where the problem lies.

It was great in the early days. With a handful of clients, responding quickly to queries in Slack was ideal. But fast-forward 15 months, with over 100 clients now, and it was becoming unmanageable. Most of those DMs were to two people – me and Alicia.

That caused a couple of issues. Firstly, Alicia’s in her final year at University, and works with us 3 days a week. On the other 4 she’s at Abertay, studying, or travelling with Steph exploring the world. Then there’s me. With the kind of work I do I’m often offline. I might be out of the office working with clients. Could be at a conference (like the past couple of days). Or perhaps teaching at DJCAD, or with a client like Scottish Power. For both of us, it’s often not possible to respond quickly anymore. The perils of growth….

The second issue has been the sheer volume of DMs. 9,553 messages in a year or so. In anyone’s book, that’s a lot. And it leads to a feeling of overwhelm. Seeing that little Slack icon pop up on the phone – the notification of a new message – was bringing on anxiety and dread, rather than delight. We don’t want anyone to feel like that.

And so we started to look at ways to solve this problem. How might we deliver fast response to our clients questions without one or two people being overburdened. How can the whole team get involved (there are currently 6 of us, soon 7). After some discussion with the team, a little time for research & thought, testing & prototyping, we landed on Zendesk.

As we explored the types of question we get asked on Slack DM, we found that many were similar. We were giving the same answer over and over again. Building a Knowledge Base on a platform like Zendesk would make it easier to serve that information to clients.

Andy was also keen to create a new support@ email address. Instead of these queries landing in our Slack DMs, they would now go directly, by email, into Zendesk, where they could be triaged and assigned to the right member of the team to answer. It might still be me, but more often than not it isn’t.

Two weeks in, and we’ve seen a huge reduction in our Slack DMs, which is great for our people. We’ve also been able to answer several questions via Zendesk, with different members of the team getting involved. We feel more connected as a group to our clients – it’s not just me ‘owning’ the relationship. And, importantly, the conversations are still happening in the Open Channels in Slack. This past week there’s been chat about our move over to ReceiptBank, multicurrency features on Xero, and charging Vat to charities. Thankfully we’ve all managed to steer clear of #brexit…..

So that’s the background. We love our clients – we want to make it easier for them to get the answers they need, when they need them. We also love our people, and we don’t ever want them to feel overwhelmed.

Have a wonderful weekend!


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